It’s very hard to whittle down a year’s worth of games to a list of merely five. EGM had almost 120 games up for best of the year voting this time around, of which I personally beat 87 at the moment of my writing this. (Who needs a family anyway? So overrated.) Nevertheless, some games took weeks, almost months to get through; some barely took more than a lunch break. But at the end of a grueling and arduous processing period that would have broken lesser men, I emerged with a list of my personal top five from 2016. I give these games my highest recommendation, and hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

#5
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Gears of War 4
I was cautiously optimistic when it came to Gears 4 prior to release. The original trilogy had wrapped everything up so nicely, and the prequel was so lackluster, that I really wasn’t sure if an adventure that followed Marcus’ son could capture the magic of the original three. But, thankfully, my fears were quickly assuaged. New enemies, a Sera wracked by new natural disasters as a result of Gears 3’s ending, and a new cast was just what the doctor ordered to put Gears of War back on top. Along with the thrilling campaign, the multiplayer was a return to form, too. New weapons, maps, and modes, plus the card system to reward players for playing certain ways, gave it a much-needed shot in the arm. If I ever find the time, this is the one multiplayer I’m returning to.

#4
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Forza Horizon 3
As much as I love racing games,—and the Forza series in particular—it’s hard to believe it made my top five. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m saying it snuck in here. On the contrary, I just can’t believe how much I loved it. Sports and racing games sometimes get forgotten, or left in a category all their own (or weirdly mashed into one category). When it comes time for Game of the Year, for me anyway, everything is on the table. And hands down, no doubt, Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best all-around experiences I’ve had in 2016. If it wasn’t for the fact that my job requires me to play dozens of games a year, my tires would still be warm on my precious dune buggy as I bound over the hills of the Outback. With tons of championships still to be won, I can’t wait to dive back into this one over winter break.

#3
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: Game Freak
Platforms: 3DS
Pokémon Sun/Moon
I’ve said it a hundred times I think at this point, but I’ve been playing Pokémon since it first hit these shores almost 20 years ago, and I don’t think since that original entry has a game in the series made me so happy. Pokémon Sun/Moon’s removal of traditional gym battles, reimagining of friends and rivals, integration of legendary Pokémon into the story, and multitude of side activities to do blows away every previous entry. The fully-realized 3D world and movement make a huge difference when roaming around the islands of Alola, and the removal of HMs and adding ride Pokémon to get from point A to point B quickly make the chore of traversal a thing of the past. Almost every issue we’ve had with previous Pokémon games has been addressed, and the game still has all the great battle strategy and training we’ve come to expect over the years. I can’t wait to see where Pokémon goes next.

#2
Publisher: EA
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Titanfall 2
If you want to see a master course in level design in action, play Titanfall 2. Rectifying one of the major gaffs of the first game by including a campaign this go around, Respawn Entertainment turned my world on its head and inside out, and I loved every second of it. If you told me I was going to cherish the relationship between a pilot and his robot at this start of this, I’d have laughed you out of the office. Now, though, I think it’s one of the strongest bonds conveyed in a game. It’s not the best written, since gameplay definitely still takes the reigns most of the time here, but if you want a non-stop, adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride with giant robots, then you need to play this game. Plus, the multiplayer is just as tight this go around as in the first one. It almost doesn’t get better than this.

#1
Publisher: Playdead
Developer: Playdead
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Inside
I’m just as shocked as anyone that I picked indies as my game of the year in back-to-back years now, but the truth of the matter is that I absolutely adored Inside. There was no other game that I was talking about well after I beat it more than this near-perfect little puzzle platformer. The adventure of trying to escape a world making its best attempt to crush you in every way imaginable surely has more metaphors buried in it than I can uncover here in this blurb, but throw that in with an insane ending that you’ll never see coming, and I’m still excited about it even just writing this. I did not know how Playdead would be able to top their first amazing effort with Limbo, but they did, and if anyone believes in the sophomore slump, they clearly never played Inside.
The 6th Annual “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game presented by Popsicle (not really)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Continuing my annual tradition, for as many great looking games as were out there this year, none looked as good to me as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. From the animation for all the characters to the remote locales that Drake explored, the game was simply gorgeous. Driving my jeep through the mud, boating on crystal clear waters, and climbing through overgrown jungles are all things we’ve seen in games before, but I don’t think any game has ever done them better. So, it may not have made my Top 5, but I needed to at least shine a small light on the beauty of this visual gem.
The Michelle Obama Award for Battling Obesity
Pokémon Go
Although strides have been made with motion controls and virtual reality, gaming has always been, and really remains, a pretty sedentary activity. Then Niantic released Pokémon Go this summer, and millions of people got up out of their chairs and started walking around—including yours truly. Heck, even to this day it affects my lunch habits, as I’ll walk places now in order to hatch eggs and get candy in the game. I met new people, found new places in and around Los Angeles, and spent more time outdoors than I had in a very long time. I’d still love to see battling and trading implemented at some point, but for now, kudos to Niantic for doing what almost nothing could for me for a long time: giving me a reason to get up and go outside.
The “Reality Sucks, Let’s Go Somewhere Else” Award
Robinson: The Journey
2016 will be remembered as the year VR really hit mass-market, and so it seemed fitting to shine a light on one of the best games out there for it. While many games successfully brought the sensation of piloting mechs or planes to life, my favorite experience was when I got to explore a strange new world on foot. Robinson: The Journey revolves around a spacefaring boy lost on a strange planet filled with dinosaurs. Avoiding Velociraptors, T-Rexs, and Pterodactyls was invigorating, and got me using my PS VR headset probably more than any other game out there. This experience, more than any, other has sold me on the future of VR.
EGM’s Best of 2016 Coverage
We’re taking a look at the best games of 2016 all week, from Christmas day through December 30th. Check back every day for our Top 25 Games of 2016, as well as our personal lists for the games we loved most this year. Check here for everything that’s been posted so far.
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